Why do some folks think that immigrants and refugees are spreading disease in the United States?
It certainly doesn’t help that Lou Dobbs once pushed the false idea that “illegal aliens” were fueling outbreaks of disease in the United States:
“The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans. Highly-contagious diseases are now crossing our borders decades after those diseases had been eradicated in this country.”
Lou Dobbs Tonight
He warned, on his show in 2005, that “there are rising fears that once eradicated diseases are now returning to this country through our open borders. Those diseases are threatening the health of nearly every American as well as illegal aliens themselves.”
The once “eradicated diseases” he was talking about was leprosy. Of course though, he was wrong – leprosy has never been eradicated and it has not been increasing. Since 1985, there have been about 100 to 300 cases a year in the United States – no where near the “7,000 in the past three years” that Dobbs reported.
Immigrant Disease Spreading Propaganda Blitz
More recently, “as the taxpayer funded refugee resettlement industry launches a propaganda blitz about the so-called World Refugee Day” in 2016, Breitbart News reported that “six diseases that were recently near eradication are making a comeback in the United States.”
Of these six diseases, three – measles, mumps, and whooping cough – are vaccine-preventable and have very little to do with immigrants or refugees. Often, they have to do with unvaccinated United States citizens traveling out of the country, getting sick, and coming home to start an outbreak.
There was an outbreak of measles among a Somali community in Hennepin County, Minnesota in 2011, involving 14, mostly unvaccinated people. But they were unvaccinated because the anti-vaccine crowd (Wakefield) scared them away from being vaccinated over fears of autism, not because they were recent refugees.
Another Breitbart disease, scarlet fever, is simply the rash that you get when you have a strep infection, like strep throat. It is very common in kids and the incidence hasn’t changed over the years in the United States. For an unknown reason, the UK is seeing higher rates of scarlet fever though.
The last two Breitbart News warns about are bubonic plague and tuberculosis.
While there were 16 cases of plague in the United States in 2015, that is not unusual. The CDC reports that “in recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year (range: 1–17 cases per year).”
“The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas.”
CDC – Plague ecology in the United States
Anyway, you get bubonic plague from infected fleas and flea bites, not other sick people. You can get pneumonic plague from a sick person, but that hasn’t happened in the United States since 1924.
What about tuberculosis? That must be increasing because of new immigrants and refugees, right?
Nope. After years and years of decreasing, the number of cases and incidence rate has leveled off at its lowest level, about 9,500 cases since 2013. That’s compared to just over 14,000 cases in 2005. While that’s not to say that more work has to be done in working to eliminate tuberculosis, it is not making any kind of comeback.
Other Breitbart articles warned that “Syrian Refugees Spreading Flesh-Eating Disease, Polio, Measles, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis” and “EXCLUSIVE – Syrian Refugees Bringing Flesh-Eating Disease into U.S.?”
The “Flesh-Eating Disease” Breitbart is talking about isn’t the flesh-eating bacteria. It is a parasite that isn’t even spread from person to person. It is spread by sand fleas.
And rates of tuberculosis are actually lower in Syria than in most of Europe.
“In spite of the common perception of an association between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, there is no systematic association.”
World Health Organization
Tragically, while there have been some outbreaks of measles, polio, and other diseases in Syria, refugees are not spreading these diseases to Europe or the United States.
Of course, Breitbart isn’t the only one participating in the immigrant disease spreading propaganda blitz these days.
“Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world.”
Donald Trump (2015)
From politicians spreading misleading information about “tremendous infectious disease” to everyone else spamming each other with tales of immigrants spreading everything from Ebola and EV-D68 to worms, the net result is folks being scared of immigrants and refugees for no good reason.
Mychal Massie, in an Invasion USA report for WND recently wrote about a briefing given to the Arizona State Senate warning about a “Medical Ticking Time Bomb” warning that “illegals” were bringing scurvy, pernicious lice, and worms, etc. into the US.
Now unless immigrants are stealing all of our vitamin C, I don’t think that we have to worry that we will start see epidemics of scurvy any time soon.
We might have to worry about even larger outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, but it won’t be immigrants or refugees causing them. It will be because more folks are skipping out on getting vaccinated and protected.
For More Information on Immigrants and Refugees
- AAP – Protecting Immigrant Children
- AAP – Immigrant Child Health Toolkit
- CDC – Immigrant and Refugee Health
- CDC – New Vaccination Criteria for U.S. Immigration
- CDC – Vaccination Program for U.S.- Bound Refugees
- HRSA – Leprosy Data & Statistics
- CDC – Scarlet Fever: A Group A Streptococcal Infection
- CDC – Tuberculosis Data and Statistics
- Debunking the Myth that Refugees Spread Disease
- PolitiFact – Are illegal immigrants bringing ‘tremendous’ disease across the border, as Trump says? Unlikely
- Snopes – Are Immigrant Kids Spreading Enterovirus (EV-D68)?
- Snopes – No, Syrian refugees aren’t bringing a flesh-eating disease into the United States
- On World Refugee Day, Laura Ingraham Accuses Refugees Of Bringing Disease To America
- WHO – Migration and health: key issues
- Review – Infectious Disease Screening for Refugees Resettled in the United States